Chilpancingo and beyond

I came into the country with a nasty cough, the remnants of a nasty virus that seems to be going around. I spent most of my first week here just resting or snoozing, since a head/chest full of gunk and high altitude really do not go together very well. I started to feel human about the end of the week so I took the chance of traveling to Chilpancingo with my friends, Vanessa and Lili, to see other old friends at the Chilpancingo English congregation (ah finally I understand and am understood) and then further down the road for a party and overnight at Lili’s family’s home.

The food was fabulous, the entertainment (a drama about Moses and the 10 plagues of Egypt performed by the children) brought tears to my eyes.

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After a few games, everyone danced and danced and ate and ate some more. A good time was had by all. When the night was over, everyone chipped in and cleaned up the compound, you never would have know that a party had been raging just moments before.

Did I say compound? Oh yes.

Lili’s family lives the way many do in these small towns. They own a chunk of property (perhaps a 1/4 acre or more) on which they build a house, plant some citrus, banana, and avocado trees and build a simple dwelling, used mostly for sleeping, since cooking, washing, and most other activities happen outdoors. As the family grows so does the house eventually including other houses for married sons.

Initially 3 rooms and a big porch running the length of the house (for a family of 5), Lili’s parents recently added new quarters for themselves with an indoor “kitchen” — a stove, counter for prep, and a table to eat at; water for washing dishes, etc is outside. It is like their own little efficiency apartment until the whole family shows up for a meal that is. The initial three rooms now provide a separate bedroom for Lili, when she comes home, and her sister, with a living room area between.

There is no running water in the house, as in many Mexican houses outside the cities. A washbasin (for dishes, clothing, and washing up) is located on the porch; the bathroom and shower are at the opposite end of the compound for sanitary purposes – keeping any smell or flies away from the living quarters (though both were so impeccably clean that I doubt any self respecting fly would come anywhere near. ) Though a little unusual by American standards, this is a delightfully simple way to live.

As tradition has it, they are building a new house for their son and his wife and eventual family (if there are many sons, each builds a house along the perimeter of the property). Again, this dwelling is used mostly for sleeping and some privacy. Outdoor cooking, laundry, bathing, and living space, including a big hammock under the trees, are communal. (Sorry I did not get any photos, my phone and only camera this trip died prematurely.)

This is an fine example of the importance of family in the Mexican culture. Father and son work together and everyone lives and helps each other, working in harmony. True family unity.

It was a real honor to be invited to the fiesta and to stay in Lili’s home, meet her family, and view old family photos. After this visit it is easy to see why Lili is such a delight to be around.

Flashback — Folk Art Center – Blue Ridge Parkway

At milepost 382 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, just outside of Asheville, NC, is the Folk Art Center, a wonderful place to stretch your legs and feast your eyes on some handmade beauty. Run by the Southern Highland Craft Guild, a century old artist’s organization, in cooperation with the National Park Service and the Appalachian Regional Commission, this gallery and gift shop offers seasonal exhibits and fine arts and crafts from around the region.

Here is a sampling of the quilts and folk art on display during my spring visit.

To learn more visit the Craft Guild website.

FYI – You will find other Craft Guild shops in Asheville, Gatlinburg, TN, Middlesboro, KY and at milepost 294 of the Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC.

Flashback — Mountain High

And now for the rest of the story —

As traBlue Ridge Parkway signvels, even meanders, always do, it came time to turn toward home. Leaving the coast behind, I headed West toward Asheville, North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park a place I had lived for a few months just out of high school and other than to drive by occasionally on trips south had not visited again since my early 20s. I spent a couple of glorious days (not nearly enough) driving the parkway which traverses 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina along the Blue Ridge, a part of the Appalachian Mountains, through tunnels and across streams and deep ravines, all with the glorious backdrop of the blue ridges for miles and miles.

Rising from Asheville at approximately 3000 feet above sea level to 6000+ several times, the climate changed from warm sunshine and blooming dogwoods to still naked trees and brisk wintery winds, then back to the warmth of spring in bloom again. Many scenic overlooks mark your way, along with great hiking opportunities, some easy and some more difficult, to waterfalls and places like Devil’s Courthouse (a cave where the wind makes it sound like someone is talking) and Looking Glass Rock (with a wet face that glows in the sun and shines like a mirror). (L-R below)

My favorite memory is the trip down from Mitchell Mountain, the highest point in the Eastern US. A section of the parkway was closed ahead and I would have had to backtrack at least 30 miles to reach a paved road going down the mountain. Having driven 50-60 miles out of my way, following the tourism office directions to reach the parkway the “easy” way (which I guess means less curves), I was not interested in backtracking that far. Discovering that I did not mind curves (what is with this curvaceous avoidance?), the ranger told me about a forest road shortcut down the side of the mountain that had just been graded, so of course I took it.

What a ride!

The road winds straight down the side of the mountain, switching back and forth and sometimes wrapping around itself, as it follows the terrain and a rushing stream. At the top there is nothing but late winter brown and dull conifers, but as you descend, tiny green leaves soften the stark branches of deciduous trees. Over and over you cross a stream which tumbles over dead fall and boulders — music to your ears. Before long, dogwoods in full bloom delight your eyes as you wind your way into spring warmth. At the bottom, an old mill attests to strength of the water’s flow.

Here are a few scenes from my drive.

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Asheville is lovely. Like my hometown, Madison, WI (though only 1/4 the size), it is a small city that is big in beauty and culture. Throw in the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smokys around the bend, and Southern charm plus music, artisans, and lots of organic food and you have a city I would love to call home.

In fact, when I came down the mountain to find a camp host in a very off-the-beaten-path federal campground just outside of town, I was very tempted to just stay right there and never leave.




Hola mi amigos!


Greetings from Mexico!

It is early December and I am sitting on my balcony overlooking Taxco, Mexico. The sun is shining, the birds chirping, a light breeze stirs the 75 degree day — just about perfect I’d say, except you all cannot be with me.Typical Street - Taxco, Mexico

Since I have not posted to my blog in almost 6 months, I feel I owe you a brief explanation. My last posts were describing my trip home to Wisconsin from a rather mad-dash trip to Florida to escape the heating season in my apartment which was seriously affecting my chemical sensitivities . I got as far as Charleston, SC and was ready to head West into the mountains (Asheville and the Great Smokies) promising you more. (I’ve provided links my blogs on Charleston, Asheville, and the Smokies, to read posts on Florida, search in the box above.)

Sorry I let you down. Because of a need to speed home (rather than meander) the last couple of days I got behind. Then when I arrived home, the usual sensitivities reaction, “stopped me in my tracks.”

In the end, the decision was made that I had to find a different place to live, which with my sensitivities was not so easy. I spent the summer searching the possibilities, traveling hundreds of miles in the process, while at the same time making contacts, taking classes, and getting certification for a new occupational direction I hope to launch in the summer of 2015. To say I have been busy — coming and going, barely touching base at home before I was gone again — would be an understatement.

But that was then, and this is now.

By mid-November I finished selling, donating, or recycling most of my worldly goods, put a few things in storage, vacated my apartment, and traveled off to Portland, Maine to visit my daughter and family. Now, in Mexico, I finally have the pleasure of stopping long enough to catch my breath and tell about it.

First, though, I want to tell you “the rest of the story” of my trip through the mountains. Hang on to your sombrero, it will be a fast ride!